Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teaching the Dewey Decimal System

Over the summer my daughters and I re-shelved our picture books in alphabetical order by author's last name. A few weeks ago we did the same to our chapter books. Today I decided that it was time to tackle the nonfiction books at the school. The neighboring teacher and I agree that we should organize them by Dewey Decimal Number and an effort was spent last year to label each book on the spine with its appropriate number. Now the job remains to identify the books which were not labeled and to reshelve the whole lot.

Using the Dewey Decimal page on my website to print and create a massive binder detailing the specifics of each Dewey Decimal number, I then had to decide how I was going to introduce this project to the kids. I decided that we would meet as a group at the end of recess each day and before lunch. Each day we would work in teams to search every bookcase for books that began with a certain number. Then we would bring the books we found together and look at the titles, and try to guess what the category was. I would use the binder to confirm. Then while the children ate lunch, I would reshelve the books in number order. I figured that if we worked on this project a little bit at a time, it would be much more doable. I also found a fantastic Dewey Decimal Classification resource. It's a website where you type a book's ISBN in the search box and it brings up the book and tells you its Dewey Decimal number. Hooray!!!!!

Today we did
Generalities (almanacs and encyclopedias)

Philosophy and Psychology


There were no books on the shelves at all in the 100's or the 200's. This is interesting for me as well, as the teacher, to help me realize what might be lacking in our library. The idea for this project came to me last week when I was standing by the shelving and realized that we had oodles of 500's and 900's but hardly anything else. So this will be a way to get a real handle on what we have and what we don't. It will also help me to become more familiar with Dewey.

When I introduced the project, I asked the children why organizing research books by author's last name might be a bad idea. They came up with two: if fiction and nonfiction were both shelved by author's last name, you wouldn't know the difference between made up books and real information (good point!) and that it would be hard to find all the books about a certain topic if they were scattered all over the place instead of shelved together. I told them that each topic was given a number and then the books were simply organized numerically to help people quickly find what they wanted. I showed them several books and identified the page with the information for the librarians (they are already familiar with the title page but this was new to them). I told them that the Dewey Decimal number is printed in the front of almost all nonfiction books (what a GREAT idea!) so that librarians don't have to spend all their time trying to figure out how to organize the books. I told them that libraries all over the country use this system. For example, my daughter is doing a report on Birds. If she knows what category number is assigned to Birds (598) she can go into any library in the country and walk straight to their Bird section. Amazing! Next I pulled two books from 292 and showed the children the number on the spine. I read the two titles and I asked them what the category 292 might be for (292 - Mythology). Then we hunted for our first number -- the 000's.

And, I have to say, it was FUN. :-)

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